Upperclassmen at a high school in Yawata City, Japan, are now officially the envy of school kids everywhere. When the bell rings each morning, students whip out their school-sanctioned Nintendo DS handhelds and go to work on its touch screen for the first ten minutes of class. Grade-level Mario Kart battles? Not quite. Actually, not at all (though couldn’t it count as phys ed?).

The Japanese students are actually using the DS to study English. Equipped with nearly 4,000 vocabulary words, the DS is loaded with software that enables students to listen to words the system says aloud and practice English penmanship and spelling directly on the screen.

Using the DS in class has been so well received by students and teachers alike since its introduction last month that the program may soon include Kanji lessons and even venture to other subject areas.